On the way to London: August 21st, 22nd, 23rd

[Preface: Publishing the story in this way, starting in medias res, means that I take the risk that some things that were established in my mind at this point will be new information to you. I apologize and hope they will become clearer later (I’ve decided to prioritize this over the decisionmaking part for more timely publication). A second thing is that at this point in the story of my journey, my mood was extremely negative. I think it will quickly become clear why, but I know that many readers will expect a sunshiny story and many pieces of this story were not, even if the sum of the story is extremely positive. Importantly — I am completely aware of how incredibly fortunate the possibility was that I could take this trip and do it in the specific way that I did it. I was hugely grateful for this opportunity, and I still truly believe that it changed my life. My intention is not to whine about privilege and please don’t think, at points where I appear discouraged, that I’m ungrateful. I seek only to publish an honest account of my situation and experiences. Both the gloom and the jubilation are real. Finally, I am potentially going to say some things about Richard Armitage or something else that will offend the odd reader here and there. I say only that these are my personal impressions of what was happening, and that of course other people may see it differently. That I had a particular experience does not invalidate yours. ]


On the 16th of August, Guylty agrees to meet me in London and use one of my extra tickets. This makes me happier than I can say. Things are looking up. I think. I still don’t know where the physical energy will come from to get my body on this trip or how I’ll calm myself enough to use the tickets I’ve bought. But now I have a second person to look forward to besides Richard Armitage.


On the 19th, I have a conversation with dad’s drinking buddy, Boom. He’s worried that I’m going away for a week. I’m worried, too, not so much about going away, but that it’s this particular week that I’m going away. But we all discussed this and agreed that we didn’t want to spend these days together or mark them in any way. And if that’s what’s going to happen, I have to get away from here.

I decide to lay in some extra groceries and cook and freeze some meals. I know dad won’t thaw them out, but Boom might. Or they might drink all week.


On the 20th, I finally convince dad to buy the monument for mom (and himself).


c700x420On the 21st, I have lunch with Obscura. I feel like I should be feeling better about the whole trip, but I’m not. She’s got something for Guylty, so it’s a good excuse to sit down for a chat and although we say we only have 90 minutes, we talk for three hours about everything — my dad, the smallness of the Valley, her students, what’s going on at her church, her kids — but Richard Armitage.

Except for a brief phase of the conversation. She wonders if I’ll try to go to the stage door. We’ve chatted about it before, and I haven’t gotten any further in either getting past my nausea or making any decision other than my kneejerk desire to avoid the entire thing — which also makes me not want to go, period. Just buying the tickets kept my stomach from working correctly for two whole days and the level of queasiness in thinking about a stage door encounter — it’s just not bearable.

“I’ll see how I feel when I get there,” I say. “I just wonder if you won’t regret it later, if you don’t don’t at least try to meet him,” Obscura says. “Well, I’ll definitely want to observe what happens,” I say. “Are you taking your camera?” she asks. “Yeah,” I say, “such as it is.” “Good,” she says.

“I wish you were coming,” I say.

“So do I.”

Wow, is she a good sport, listening to my quibbles about the kind of thing any sane woman would consider a lifetime opportunity. And it’s unbelievably calming to talk to her.

I get my period. Which makes me not want to get on an international flight even more than I already didn’t.

And I have to pack. I go home with the full intention of getting right on top of things, but I end up staring aimlessly into space for most of the rest of the afternoon. I make dad some dinner. Post a few times. Dad goes to bed. Still I sit and stare at the wall. If I don’t get my act together I’m going to have to fly with dirty clothing.

At midnight on the 21st, early on the 22nd, Richard Armitage begins to tweet for himself.


I have a hotel reservation for tomorrow in Chicago, and also a reservation to visit a local friend. I send the friend an email and tell her I’m not coming, and confirm the hotel reservation. My mood is so vile I dare not subject anyone else to it.

But I confirm the flight, and buy five additional inches of legroom as an incentive to want to go.

I go to bed with clothes unwashed, bag unpacked, very early in the morning, after watching the responses to Richard Armitage’s tweet until early in the morning. I set the alarm, but needlessly, as I don’t sleep.


The 22nd is Armitage Day. And I congratulate him and I set up my usual birthday challenge. However, it is also now and irretrievably the anniversary of the last time I saw my mother alive. There are pictures of us all together on that day, the last pictures of her. I’ve never looked at them. They’re on my computer, and for some stupid reason I decide to look at them now. We thought we had another two months. The pictures tell another story. I should not have driven back to work.

I lie in bed another hour. It’s a humid, sunny day.

At 8 I get out of bed and start the washer. I don’t really look at what I put in — I just need some stuff to wear. Planning out the window — my two usual theater outfits and some jeans and shirts should be fine. Oh, and the boots I usually wear with the skirts these days. No one’s going to be looking at me. I go out to buy a few things I need for the trip — aspirin #1 on the list, sanitary supplies, and a few things a London friend has asked me to look for at Target — and come back. It’s 10 now. 11. 12. I post a few times. I need to be at the airport at 3. I run the dryer and start another wash. Finally, at 2, I’ve got clothes packed. I start to police the house, picking up clutter, loading the dishwasher, editing the refrigerator, telling dad where the frozen meals for him and Boom are and how to thaw them. I move some money around electronically to make sure that I’ve got multiple options in case I run into some kind of snafu. It occurs to me I should call my credit card company and tell them I’ll be crossing an international border.

“Do you have enough cash, honey?” my dad asks, a little later.

“Think so,” I say, distractedly. I don’t have any pounds, though I remember when we used to do that, twenty years ago — order a little local currency from the bank ahead of a trip. I did that before I went to México the first time in 1989. The bag I wanted to use is too small once I try to put 30 Atkins bars into it and I’m considering switching as it’s either bars or umbrella and I don’t want to buy anything in London that I already own.

“Here’s some dollars,” he says, “just in case.” And he pulls a lot of dollars out. A lot of them.

I burst inexplicably into tears.

“You don’t have to go, if you don’t want to, you know,” he says.

“It’s all paid for, dad,” I say.

“Well, I know you’ll have a good time.”

“Yeah,” I say. “Let me change the house network so your computer is back on Ethernet and then I’ll shower and then we’ll go.”

The network modification turns into a hairball and we have to restart the system, but finally it’s working, and I’m still ready on time. Dad puts my bag into the truck and we drive over to the airport (it’s a five minute drive). Dad gets to tell all of his favorite airport jokes: “Are you flying from Gate One or Gate Two?” (there have been six for the last decade or so) and “Gosh, I hope they remember where they left the plane.”

“Have fun, honey,” he says.

airportSomehow it’s easier once I’m in the airport, at least at first. They won’t check my bag through to London because the freak fare gave me a layover of more than eight hours, but it rolls. I go through security and they ask the usual questions, plus our local favorite, “Are you carrying any cheese with you?”

I fall asleep on the flight to Chicago, and get my bag, and traipse through the airport, and get to the hotel. Suddenly I’m really alone for the first time in weeks, and I find myself sobbing.

Turn on the computer and Mr. Armitage has doused himself in ice-water. Happy Birthday. I keep celebrating it, but I’m not feeling it.

Bad thoughts come. I miss mom. I’m spending a chunk of the money she left me by doing this and despite my long conversation with Architect, I haven’t succeeded in convincing myself that she would approve. This is so ridiculously frivolous, I think, and you can’t even get yourself behind going emotionally. A play you hate, and what for? It’s not like you’re going to meet him.

I don’t want to go on this trip. I want my mom, id says.

Grow up, you idiot! superego says. Women in their forties do not get to behave this way!

A few more tears.

Beer, I think. Beer will turn off my odious superego.

Two very expensive hotel beers later (Sam Adams Summer Seasonal), I feel even worse. I should know this: alcohol magnifies whatever feeling you have when you’re drinking it. Mom would not approve. This is stupid. The whole thing — fandom, Richard Armitage, caring this much about anything — is just ridiculous. What the hell do you think you’re doing, S? You have a Ph.D. Grow up.

Bed, ego thinks. Just go to bed. Before your superego paralyzes you.


Sleep always resets the brain and this is no exception. I wake up, read a little more, post a bit. Drag myself into the airport and check in. I can feel just how small-townie three months have made me: the speed and volume and rhythm of the airport are overwhelming; I am not responding quickly enough and am looking at people just a bit too long. Small town girl at heart.

It’s pouring, pouring in ORD, and the airport orders ground stop. Pull out my computer again — the volcano in Iceland has just erupted! — but we should get off the ground, if the lightning in ORD stops. It finally does that, and they herd us onto the plane before it starts again. The plane is overbooked and they’ve offered people money to get off at the gate, but now they close the aircraft doors and the plane’s half empty. I spread out over two seats and ask the flight attendant what’s going on.

“All the United Express flights get messed up in weather like this,” she says. “Those little jets can’t handle this kind of storm.”

And I realize: the freak flight with the funny layover probably saved the trip. If I were still at home, I’d be grounded.


To next post, August 24.

~ by Servetus on September 5, 2014.

20 Responses to “On the way to London: August 21st, 22nd, 23rd”

  1. I knew you were conflicted about this, but I didn’t know how deeply. I wish now that I’d been more supportive along the way!


  2. […] Continued from here. […]


  3. Making these decisions is difficult at the best of times, but I can see how you were taking them in even more difficult circumstances. Plus – I always find that I love planning a journey, but the closer it gets to departure, the more I doubt my decisions. In the end it is all fine, and one learns to expect the doubts, but it is certainly always a difficult experience. I am glad you were not discouraged but followed through. And hail to Obscura for reinforcing you!!


    • and this is more or less after I’d made them all — the agony is mostly over at this point. It’s funny, looking back at this now — these are things I’m still conflicted over but I see now how I mastered the problems, at least temporarily. A good lesson.


  4. I said this before but you did it again: I am sitting in front of my comp with tears in my eyes because your words and the feelings you describe are touching me on so many levels…
    Thank you for these posts and the courage and frankness to write about your journey!!!


  5. I had a feeling the closer you got to the last day you saw your mom and the day she died would be very hard on you. I am glad you did decided to go to London and look forward to read about the rest of the trip.


    • We had kind of anticipated that — it’s part of the backstory that I haven’t published — and we had a family talk about what if anything we wanted to do. The consensus was that my brother and SIL had to work and my dad wanted to be by himself. So it worked out to go and create some different memories for this week …


  6. What an emotional time it was for you. I think you handled it better than I would, under all these circumstances (including hormonal, aargh- what timing). Can’t wait to “turn the page”.


  7. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. The first anniversary is the hardest in my opinion and during the year you go through a lot of them (first Christmas, first birthday…)

    I hate to fly and admire you for even booking your “freak flight.” Congratulations for getting on the flight!


    • Thanks — the reasons are in the backstory — hopefully to come soon. The flight itself was like a sign I was supposed to do this.


  8. I’m really sorry you had to struggle so much with the trip but mostly with everything else around it. I think you are really brave to have gone ahead with it, it would have been easy to back down and not face the fears or break away and do something different. Feels like it a big step into the unknown almost and on your own, which wasn’t easy. I know you weren’t alone in London all the time but still with all the memories it think it actually speaks greatly of how brave you actually are to face all this and go ahead with it. Just sorry you had such a rough time with it at times. xx But really happy for you that you did get on that plane and made it across ok 🙂


    • I really hadn’t thought about having been there the last time with them until I was on the Tube, oddly enough. It was sort of that I knew, when I started having proximity issues, that I did want to see the play and that it was an option to plan it.

      I actually don’t mind being alone; I like being alone — and I would totally go for a week in London by myself — but being able to meet up with Guylty and my other friend were both wonderful opportunities. it would have been braver for me to plan a week filled with people …


      • ah i understand 🙂 sorry for reading and then commenting backwards, just thought you gave us all so much by sharing your experience with us that i wanted to acknowledge it properly 🙂 i hear and read you so to speak 🙂 i hope immersing yourself with the play and the people around and such have encouraged you to repeat the experience should the opportunity arise 🙂


        • The real danger of this kind of communication is that it’s like the phone — the reader doesn’t know me in most cases and all s/he has is my words, so there’s a temptation to fill in the spaces with the reader’s interpretive material. That is possibly easier for longer term readers to do effectively because they’re familiar from last summer with the story of my mother’s death and my difficult relationship with my father. But yeah, to fill in a little backstory: I’m a pronounced MBTI “I”.


  9. […] the Armitage. We see in him some traditional virtues. We’ve got relics. We’ve gone on pilgrimages. We’ve had (personal and less personal) encounters with him, with heartening or affirming […]


  10. […] Two years today since I saw mom alive. A year ago today I was checking into a Chicago hotel and wondering if I was an idiot. […]


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